THE PRISONER'S WIFE

A MEMOIR

A haunting, intensely emotional memoir of the middle-class author’s relationship with a man jailed for murder. In lyrical, flowing prose, columnist and performance poet Bandele (Absence in the Palms of My Hands, not reviewed) presents piercing portraits of herself, the man she loves, and a prison system designed to stifle all sensibility. Growing up in a black, middle-class world of private schools, summer camps, dance lessons, horseback riding, art classes, and gymnastics, Bandele is groomed to believe that success and independence are her birthrights. At 21 she is married in an expensive, formal June wedding to a highly respected young man. Two years later her marriage unravels, and the writer finds herself ardently drawn to a convicted murderer she meets while giving a poetry reading at an upstate New York prison. While coming to terms with her role in this unorthodox relationship, which eventually leads to marriage, Bandele examines with painful honesty a past riddled with sexual abuse and several suicide attempts following prolonged depressive episodes. Rashid, the inmate, emerges as a spiritual, sensitive soul who is also the victim of childhood brutality. Bandele successfully conveys the callousness of the prison system, where inmates and their visitors are dehumanized through strip searches, scrutinizing glances, and insensitive comments. (Even a passionate conjugal visit is interrupted by a security count.) While much of the writing deals with feelings, the writer also dispassionately reports on the redemptive role that Islam plays in her husband’s life as a “code for living, a structure, a set of rituals, a chart directing him through every minute of every day.” To Bandele, by contrast, it is merely a set of stifling rules that smother her spirit. “I do not want to be in a religion where men cannot shake my hand or hug me unless we—re married,” she tells Rashid in one of their unresolvable debates. Mesmerizing and disconcerting, offering insights into why caged birds sing.

Pub Date: May 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85073-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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